Deep inside the courthouse, beyond the glass doors down far below the elevators and two flights of stairs - literally in the basement - is the nerve center of St. Charles Parish ... the Emergency Office of Preparedness and Homeland Security.
I was meeting the head of the department, Tab Troxler for an update on the parish. At first I thought I must be lost, there was no neatly dressed uniformed receptionist or other smiling employee waiting to greet me; instead there was a large steel grey door with a black box next to it with a flashing red light with a sign just above it that reads: “must press buzzer to enter.”
I pressed the buzzer and a male voice asks me a couple of questions after mumbling a couple of answers I was allowed inside.
The lastest high-tech and most up-to-date digital systems imaginable is inside this little known location in the parish , and all of this equipment is what it takes to create a center capable of proctecting the 50,633 residents.
There’s a camera attached to a tower located on the roof of the court house that can see almost everything within a twenty mile radius and according to the EOC staff, some days when the weather is extremly clear, all the way to New Orleans.
Sophisticated weather computers line one side of the communications room and give up-to-date accounts about the weather conditions all across the United States. In another area there is the ... RED PHONE.
It looks frightening. It connects directly to the chemical plants and to the nuclear power plant between Killona and Taft.
This is the phone that will alert the EOC staff to trouble and save lives in the event of a chemica or radiological disaster.
St. Charles Parish is the only parish in the state of Louisiana with nine employees manning an EOC office year round-24 hours a day seven days a week.